PLYMOUTH — Following two recent plant malfunctions and subsequent odors believed to stem from the Covanta Plymouth Renewable Energy facility, the Plymouth Township Council intends to appoint an environmental law firm, as well as an environmental engineer at its regular monthly meeting on Monday.
Township Manager Karen Weiss said the environmental counsel and engineer will provide an independent review of the plant’s operations. The goal is to determine if Covanta is within its allowable emissions as outlined in its Department of Environmental Protection air quality permit, Weiss said. By law, Covanta is required to self-report to DEP any incidents involving emissions beyond the predetermined threshold.
With the independent analysis, the governing body wants to ensure that Covanta’s reporting is accurate. In addition, the environmental experts will be able to ascertain if odors stemming from a recent controlled shutdown, for instance, pose any harm to residents.
“The Council wants some independent people to tell us it’s OK,” Weiss said. “We want an independent engineer to look at everything and try to get more answers.”
Members of the Plymouth Township Council will meet with Covanta representatives, the DEP and elected officials from neighboring Conshohocken and West Conshohocken later this week. Elected officials and residents will also tour the Covanta facility this week.
Plymouth Township began talks with Covanta in January following a concerning plant malfunction in December which produced loud noise, emissions and what residents characterized as the smell of burning plastic. The Council invited a Covanta representative to its January meeting to discuss the Dec. 30 power supply shutdown and answer questions.
A similar plant incident in early June produced another strong odor. As a result of concerns related to the plant’s emissions, the Plymouth Township Council tabled a resolution in June to renew its trash contract with Covanta. That five-year contract will expire on Dec. 31, Weiss said.
At its July meeting, Covanta Director of Business Management David Sharp told the governing body that the most recent plant malfunction was being investigated and findings would be shared with municipalities.
“We are fully committed to working transparently with DEP, with all the agencies,” Sharp said.
Sharp said the company supported Plymouth Township’s decision to hire an independent expert.
Council President Marty Higgins said the township is looking out for its residents’ best interests.
“We do take this seriously,” Higgins said. “We’re trying to get the information, investigate the information, as fast as we can.”